Narrative theories

What is narrative?

Narrative is the word used to describe chronological events. narrative is endemic to us and can be found in TV Shows, novels and even advertisements. These narratives can be in the past, present and even future, also narratives don’t necessarily need to be factual or even realistic. An example of this is the Star Wars franchise, which is set in ‘a galaxy far far away’. Star Wars is a highly successful franchise which has grossed over $4.7 Billion, as well as having books, comic strips and even video games. A recent example of this is the recently released Star Wars Battlefront. The has been rated 7/10 by critics and is the 4th fastest selling game this year. There have been 7 films in the Star Wars franchise so far, with another 2 films on the way in 2017 and 2019 respectively. The first three films made formed the original trilogy, with the next three films forming the prequel trilogy, the next film, and the films due to be released in the next 3 years complete the sequel trilogy. This is again an example of narrative with sequels and prequels etc. It all forms a chronological order of events that is easy, and simple, to follow.

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 Why is narrative important?

Narrative is important because it has been around since the existence of the human species and is how humans have always communicated with one another, and all use to this day. Another reason narrative is important is because without narrative things get complicated. This would be bad for Films and TV shows as the audience would watch the first few episodes, or the start of the film, and get confused; loose interest and eventually stop watching. Most importantly our everyday life is a narrative, we are born, we all age day by day, we go to school, get qualifications, get a job, have a family of our own, grow old, retire then we all eventually die. Furthermore there are things in our everyday lives and our history that is a narrative. Darwin’s theory of evolution is the chronological order of how we evolved over tens of thousands of years. The date increases by one each day, the time on a clock increases by a second every day. Humans first mode of transport 4000 years ago, other than their feet, were donkeys and horses. 4000 years later we have cars that doesn’t even need a human driver. Narrative is hardwired into our brains and everything that happens is a form of narrative.

Three narrative theories:

1) Vladimir Propp- Character types

This theory suggests that in the majority of  media there are eight different character types. These character types are the hero, villain, heroine, father, helper, donor and mentor. Although there are eight different character types, Propp stated that not all of the character types are required to create a successful narrative. This can be seen in pretty much all modern media, as an example of this i will use the I will use the 2001 film Shrek(Andrew Adamson,Vicky Jenson). Shrek is a perfect example of Propp’s character types, this being because it is a fairytale, in which all fairytales follow these character types. Furthermore Shrek is a great example to show that a film does not need all of the character types to be hugely successful.

  • Hero – Shrek
  • Villain – Lord Farquaad
  • Heroine – Princess Fiona
  • Father – Donkey
  • Helper – Donkey
  • Donor – Donkey
  • Mentor – Donkey

I believe that Shrek(Andrew Adamson,Vicky Jenson) is a good example of Vladimir Propp’s  theory because the film follows the character theory very well. Also the film shows that following the character types is successful as the 2001 film spawned three sequels and two spin of films. Also the franchise consists of multiple short films, a TV series, a musical, two TV specials and multiple games. The first film had a production budget of around $50 million and in the worldwide box office raked in an estimated $491 million. A big part of the revenue for this film would be its success in using the various character types. Many other films, animated films especially, use the same format as Shrek and they also are hugely financially successful.

2) Levi-Strauss- Binary Opposition 

binary opposites

Strauss suggested that the way we, as humans, understand words is not what they actually mean but rather the difference between the word and its opposite. An example of this is the word Hero, as everyone knows there is a hero in pretty much every form of media out there, whether it be in the news, TV or film. Furthermore the theory suggests that we only understand this word because we know the difference between the word, hero, and its opposite, Villain for example. This is known as Binary Opposition and the example I presented, hero v villain, is the most common Binary opposition there is. This binary opposition is even in the real world. For example in WWII we had the Allies(hero/good) and the Axes powers(villain/bad).

A great example of Binary Opposition is the mega franchise Star Wars. Across a total of seven films the Star Wars franchise has accumulated a staggering $4.48 Billion, with another five films planned for release in the future. This shows that using even simplistic binary oppositions like those used in Star Wars can prove hugely successful, although using more complicated ones like Totalitarian > Democracy can also be beneficial. Furthermore Star Wars shows that there does not have to be a limit on the amount of binary oppositions you can use, as Star Wars uses many more than I have shown above. Star Wars is possibly the most successful series of films out there and I think that the use of Binary Opposition is the reason why. These are a few of the many examples;

  • Good > Evil,
  • Light > Dark,
  • Totalitarian > Democracy,
  • Nature > Technology,
  • Love > Hate,
  • Young > Old.

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3 ) Tsvetan Todorov- Equilibrium

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Todorov’s narrative theory suggests that every narrative has three states, equilibrium, disequilibrium and the new state of equilibrium. With the first state being equilibrium, this is the state where everything is normal and stable. An example of this would be in Kingsman: the secret service.This would be the start and origin of the narrative, although this doesn’t have to be a peaceful and perfect origin. This can be seen in the recent film Mad Max: Fury Road, which begins after the world has become a desert wasteland due to a nuclear holocaust. The film was released in May 2015 and has  The example I will use for Todorov’s theory is the 1997 film Titanic.

In the case of the film Titanic this would be when Jack(Leonardo DiCaprio) wins a place on the Titanic by winning a poker game. During his stay aboard the Titanic he comes to meet Rose. Todorov’s second state is the disequilibrium. This would be when there is a disruption and the narrative becomes unstable(the problem), this is common amongst all forms of media, such as films, TV shows etc. In Titanic this would be when the ship collides with the iceberg , therefore Jack looses contact with Rose. Todorov’s final state is the new state of equilibrium. This is where the narrative starts to become stable, similar to the first state, although things are not identical and there will be some minor changes. In Titanic this is when Rose finds Jack floating in the water, in which he later dies. This is a pretty major change for the new state of equilibrium, unlike most films where there is only a minor change, although it shows that even a major change such as the one in Titanic can prove very successful. As the 1997 film has made over $2.2 Billion.

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This theory is used in almost every form of modern media as it is very familiar to the audience and it is a simple and easy theory apply to any mainstream media. Furthermore this theory can make even the most boring narrative more interesting as it engages the audience, making them want to know what the end-point is. This is because this theory puts the narrative into a structure which means the audience wait for the resolution. This is important because without resolution the audience would not feel the film has concluded appropriately and so might leave the cinema unhappy. This could therefore impact the films success and chances of a sequel.

In my opinion, I think that Todorov’s three states of equilibrium would be most effective to establish in the opening of my film, this is because the first state is the state of equilibrium, this is the state where everything is normal. This usually happens at the start of films and TV shows so i think it would make sense if we introduced the state of equilibrium during the opening scene. On the other hand it would be difficult to apply Propp’s character theory as we would need to introduce the majority of the characters in the first few minutes, which would most likely confuse the audience. Furthermore it has been proven by almost every film and TV show that establishing the three states of equilibrium is a successful move.

REFERENCES

Filmography:

2001 – Shrek(Andrew Adamson,Vicky Jenson)

1977 – Star Wars(George Lucas)

1997 – Titanic(James Cameron)

2015 – Mad Max : Fury Road(George Miller)

2014 – Kingsman: The Secret Service (Mathew Vaughn)

Websites:

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/franchises/chart/?id=starwars.htm -accessed 24/11/15

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Star_Wars -accessed 24/11/15

http://www.trustedreviews.com/star-wars-battlefront-review -accessed 24/11/15

http://www.playstationlifestyle.net/2015/11/23/uk-sales-chart-star-wars-battlefront-4th-biggest-launch-2015-sells-ps4/ -accessed 24/11/15

http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/04/28/the-importance-of-narrative/ -accessed 24/11/15

http://www.slideshare.net/chillif1/vladimir-propps-structural-theory -accessed 30/11/15

http://www.slideshare.net/jordan_house/vladimir-propp-14561275 -accessed 30/11/15

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0126029/ -accessed 30/11/15

http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/franchise/Shrek#tab=summary -accessed 30/11/15

http://www.slideshare.net/LaurenMabs/levi-strauss-theory-29577382 -accessed 30/11/15

http://www.inspectorinsight.com/tag/binary-opposition/ -accessed 30/11/15

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076759/ -accessed 30/11/15

http://sashafilm.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/todorovs-theory-of-narrative.html -accessed 30/11/15

http://www.slideshare.net/07anghwilk/theory-of-equilibrium -accessed 30/11/15

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120338/ -accessed 30/11/15

http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/franchise/Star-Wars#tab=summary -accessed 3/12/15

http://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Titanic#tab=box-office -accessed 3/12/15

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1392190/ -accessed 3/12/15

http://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Mad-Max-Fury-Road#tab=summary -accessed 11/12/15

http://www.localhistories.org/transport.html -accessed 22/2/16

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2802144/ -accessed 22/2/16

Computer mood board

MoodBoard2-1m5zepp

The picture above is the computer mood board for our film. The mood board was created using Photoshop CS6. As with the paper mood board the mood board features our four key themes, oppression, capitalism, infection and desolation. The four key themes that we chose were key to making our film stand out compared to a regular horror film. The tricky thing with creating this mood board was making sure we convey the correct ideas and feeling that we, as a group, wanted to. The images that were used made this easier for us as it allows anyone to visually see what we want to convey, instead of writing down sentences. Doing this also allowed us to convey ideas that would be extremely difficult to write. Furthermore using black as a main theme added to what we wanted to convey. It tells you that the film is going to be dark and will have a dark storyline.

Capitalism:

capitalism

On the mood board there is a main picture that is relevant to capitalism. This picture sticks out compared to the rest of the pictures because it is the only picture with the color red. Furthermore the picture is fairly big compared to the other pictures, this shows that capitalism is one of our main concepts. The reason we want this to be a key concept in our film as there are a lot of problems with capitalism. We also want our film to suggest that the world we create, for our film, may have been caused by capitalism. A pictures of chains around someone’s hand’s also features on the mood board. This could signify that in capitalism our hands are tied, and we are limited in what we can do. Furthermore it could also signify that we are restricted in what we can do by the people above us. Such as the government and CEO’s of big companies.

Although there are many problems with capitalism, there are certain attributes of capitalist countries that are beneficial not  only to that particular country, but also people, and countries around the world. For example every capitalist country around the world trade with each other. They trade almost everything and with trade comes business and money, a lot of it. This shows not capitalism is not all bad and potentially in our film we could possibly highlight some of the good things that capitalism does for us. Furthermore many countries share scientific knowledge and technological advancements with each other. This is again an advantage of capitalism as it benefits near enough everyone on the planet, especially when it comes to things such as cancer research. On the other hand people, and companies, can become greedy with new discoveries like new drugs that are life saving and drugs that people need constantly until the day they die. With this big pharmaceutical companies can charge a lot of money for these drugs, when they cost a bare minimum to produce. This is another possibility we could explore in our film.

Disease:

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In the mood board there is a picture similar to the one above. The picture is of a needle. This shows that the film is about infections, or vaccinations. On the mood board there is also a picture of a gas mask. This again can be related to disease and infection, which is a main theme in our film. This is further backed up on the mood board by the word ‘infection’ that also features on the mood board. In our film we thought of having a world where something like an infection was the downfall for humanity and therefor the setting of our film. In the film I am legend the plot revolves around a doctor who is left behind in an infection zone where he is trying to find a cure. The film has an IMDB rating of 7.2/10, this shows that the film is fairly well received with critics and audiences alike. In the box office the film collected a total of $585,349,010 off of a budget of only $150 Million, showing the film was a box office success. Our film would have a few similarities to this film, therefore we already know that the audience would be more likely to watch our film. Furthermore we could explore having a setting where some of our key concepts, if not all, are linked with one another or they all played a part in something similar to a chain reaction.

I think that this is a great concept to have as it is a real world problem, that is widespread throughout the globe. Also it is a problem that isn’t addressed in the media as much as it should be. As with our paper mood board these images could be linked to the poorer countries in the world that have widespread disease and cannot afford the vaccinations for them.  This could possibly link in with capitalism as richer, first world countries are able to deal with these problems but they don’t spend near enough as much as they should helping people in less well-off countries. The main problem with capitalism is that rich people get richer and poor people don’t. This is the reason why countries such as those in the African continent cannot deal with disease and are generally a lot poorer than those in the west.

Desolation:

desolate

We thought this would be a good key concept as post apocalyptic media entertainment is very popular in the current market. An example being the TV show The Walking Dead, which has broken records for the viewing numbers. Its spin off, Fear the Walking Dead is also a successful TV shows with a new season just being given the go ahead. Although we wanted to make our film different from other films and TV shows, hence the concept of capitalism and oppression. I believe desolation is a good key concept as it doesn’t confine our options to one or two specific options, rather it is a pretty wide ranging, allowing us to have almost endless possibilities of options. On the other hand with there being a lot of post apocalyptic TV shows and film it means that the market is possibly oversaturated. Meaning adding more films and TV shows would negatively effect the market. As we have more intricate and different key concepts it would make our film quite different to current films and TV shows. The negative thing about this though is that the film may end up being overcomplicated and therefore the audience wouldn’t understand and ultimately not like our production.

The concept on our computer mood board is represented by the picture you see above. It clearly shows a desolate place, and looks like the area has been abandoned by humanity for quite a long time. 28 weeks later is a 2007 film that is set 6 months after a virus has decimated the population of Great Britain. Like I am Legend this film is similar to our film because it is about a virus that has spread and killed almost the entire population. In the film we see around the streets of London and how the environment has took over the buildings and landscape. This is the kind of look we are going for as it isn’t something you get to see in real life. Therefore it would intrigue the audience as it is different to everyday life and almost everyone wonders what the world would look like after humanity comes to an end. Our film would hopefully offer a new outlook on what the world would look like. What the audience would see in our film would be different to other films of the same genre because our film is set in a desolate area, but there are infected people that are not quite human, but are near human. Unlike films like I am Legend where the zombies try to kill you, in our film they would live alongside the human population. It would be extremely similar to how black and white people lived alongside each other in the early 20th century where black people had different schools, toilets and had to live away from the white population.

Oppression:

AK-47

Oppression is another key theme we want to have in our film. Oppression is the exercise of power and/or authority in a cruel and unjust manner. Furthermore oppression extends to forms that are present in many ways in our country now. Sexism, Exploitation and Violence. Violence is one of, if not the most present and visible form of oppression. This is most apparent in the US where, white, American police are regularly shooting unarmed black men. This form of oppression, as well as the other forms of oppression are always in the news on near enough every format, but they don’t connect these issues as a form of oppression. This is one of the main factors as to why we wanted to deal with this issue in our production, to make the audience realize that these sometimes novel issues, are in fact very serious.

Having oppression as a key theme in our film would make our film more ‘real’ than other films. For example in the film World War Z you contract the virus from a single bite, the virus then turns you into what can only be described as a headless chicken within seconds which in turn makes you want to have a chomp on the nearest normal human. Back in the real world this would never actually happen as a virus would take a lot longer than a second to infect you. Furthermore it makes no sense at all that a virus would make you run around with the desire to bite people, unless you’re Luis Suarez. On the other hand in our film we would have people that have been infected living alongside the normal human population, as I said before like how the black population used to be discriminated against in the 20th Century by white people, and in some places are still being discriminated against still to this day. Having our film more realistic than other films would make our film, and the characters in it, easier to relate to. Furthermore the audience would be able to relate to the topics that we wil have in our film, as well as the characters.

REFERENCES:

Filmography:

2007 – I am Legend (Francis Lawrence)

2010 to present – The Walking Dead (Frank Darabont0)

2015 to present – Fear the Walking Dead (Dave Erickson, Robert Kirkman)

2007 – 28 weeks later (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo)

2013 – World War Z (Mark Forster)

Websites:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0480249/– accessed 16/04/16

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=iamlegend.htm – accessed 16/04/16

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3743822/?ref_=tt_rec_tti – accessed 16/04/16

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0463854/ – accessed 16/04/16

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1520211/?ref_=nv_sr_1 – accessed 16/04/16

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816711/?ref_=ttpl_pl_tt – accessed 16/04/16

Paper Mood board

DSC00116

 

Above is a picture of our mood board, as you can see there are a lot of images to make the mood board look busy, as well as to make sure we have enough pictures to give us a better understanding about the tone we would like our film to be about. There are pictures on the mood board that represent our four key concept, those being capitalism, oppression, desolation and disease/infection. I think the images and words we have put onto the mood board really emphasise what we would like our film to be about. All of the images are straight to the point and gives anyone who looks at the mood board a clear idea on what it is about. I think this is great as it shows that we can create something that other people can come and gain an understanding for our groups ideas, hopefully this will mirror into our trailer. There are a variety of words that have been placed on the mood board to give a range of the points we should/can focus on, so we are not solely focusing on four main words. This would be to make sure we don’t begin to be repetitive, as well as to give us a broad view.

Capitalism:

Unknowncapitalism31

On the mood board there are many pictures that are relevant to capitalism. We want this to be a key concept in our film as there are a lot of problems with capitalism. We also want our film to suggest that the world we create, for our film, may have been caused by the key elements of capitalism. This is also  represented in the words that we have put onto the mood board, for example censorship and desperation. Censorship is something every capitalist country does to a certain extent, albeit some more than others. This means that our governments are potentially shielding us from the real world. This could lead to the downfall of humanity, potentially something we could explore in our film.

Although there are many problems with capitalism, there are certain attributes of capitalist countries that are beneficial not  only to that particular country, but also people, and countries around the world. For example every capitalist country around the world trade with each other. They trade almost everything and with trade comes business and money, a lot of it. This shows not capitalism is not all bad and potentially in our film we could possibly highlight some of the good things that capitalism does for us. Furthermore many countries share scientific knowledge and technological advancements with each other. This is again an advantage of capitalism as it benefits near enough everyone on the planet, especially when it comes to things such as cancer research. On the other hand people, and companies, can become greedy with new discoveries like new drugs that are life saving and drugs that people need constantly until the day they die. With this big pharmaceutical companies can charge a lot of money for these drugs, when they cost a bare minimum to produce. This is another possibility we could explore in our film.

Disease:

aids-460_1121619cdisease-transmission

Another of our key concepts is disease/infection. This is represented on our mood board as pictures of microbes and a young child from Africa, as that is the most commonly thought of place with a lot of deadly diseases and viruses. Also there are words like death and epidemic that are related to this particular concept. In our film we thought of having a world where something like an infection was the downfall for humanity and therefor the setting of our film. Furthermore we could explore having a setting where some of our key concepts, if not all, are linked with one another or they all played a part in something similar to a chain reaction.

I think that this is a great concept to have as it is a real world problem, that is widespread throughout the globe. Also it is a problem that isn’t addressed in the media as much as, i believe, it should be. This is because certain areas in the African continent are considered 3rd world countries and they don’t have the resources or infrastructure to deal with things such as widespread diseases and famine. This could possibly link in with capitalism as richer, first world countries are able to deal with these problems but they don’t spend near enough as much as they should helping people in less well-off countries. The main problem with capitalism is that rich people get richer and poor people don’t. This is the reason why countries such as those in the African continent cannot deal with disease and are generally a lot poorer than those in the west.

Desolation:

This word describes ‘a state of complete emptiness or destruction’.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 14.47.02Bridge Over Troubled Desolation

We thought this would be a good key concept as post apocalyptic media entertainment is very popular in the current market. An example being the TV show The Walking Dead, which has broken records for the viewing numbers. Although we wanted to make our film different from other films and TV shows, hence the concept of capitalism and oppression. I believe desolation is a good key concept as it doesn’t confine our options to one or two specific options, rather it is a pretty wide ranging, allowing us to have almost endless possibilities of options.

This concept is represented as pictures of abandoned buildings in the Ukrainian city of Pripyat, where the nuclear rector exploded back in 1986. I thought these were good images to put on our mood board, firstly because the images are real but also because it gives us an insight onto what the world would look like 30 years in the future if humanity were to be wiped out within the next year. Furthermore having a film set after, or during the apocalypse would instantly more interesting as viewers will most likely never experience anything like it. This also offers the viewers an insight into how someone else imagines what an apocalyptic world would be like and how it differs to how the viewers own view of it.

Oppression

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Oppression is the exercise of power and/or authority in a cruel and unjust manner. An example of oppression is the east Asian country of North Korea. North Korea was formed in after WWII in 1945 when the Korean peninsula was divided along what is known as the ’38th parallel’. The former USSR occupied the north whereas the US occupied the south. The countries government regularly abuses human rights such as torture and forced, often unpaid labor. Children are also indoctrinated from an early age into adoring the leaders, past and present. Access to foreign culture, and the internet is also restricted. The country has their own version of the internet, called the ‘intranet’, where the authorities create the websites that you can visit and they monitor everything that you do. On the other hand in countries such as the US and the UK, the governments let you visit whatever website you want to, although they do monitor what websites you do visit. Whereas North Korea makes sure you only look at pro-north propaganda, the western countries check to see if you are looking at illegal or terrorist related websites.

Furthermore oppression extends to forms that are present in many ways in our country now. Sexism, Exploitation and Violence. Violence is one of, if not the most present and visible form of oppression. This is most apparent in the US where, white, American police are regularly shooting unarmed black men. This form of oppression, as well as the other forms of oppression are always in the news on near enough every format, but they don’t connect these issues as a form of oppression. This is one of the main factors as to why we wanted to deal with this issue in our production, to make the audience realize that these sometimes novel issues, are in fact very serious.

 

References:

Websites:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/guides/456900/456957/html/nn1page1.stm -accessed 20/11/15

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/worldnews/9128776/Photographs-of-Chernobyl-and-the-ghost-town-of-Pripyat-by-Michael-Day.html -accessed 20/11/15

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/oppression -accessed 15/12/15

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/korean_peninsula/AJ201403180068 -accessed 4/1/16